Liberia has been and continues to be a victim of human indignity and all forms of abuses. For almost two (2) centuries now, the visibility of human dignity is yet too far from its shore as humiliation, degradation and dehumanization permeates nearly every facet of the society. There is a resounding public outcry currently to guarantee the rights of all citizens and non-citizens as our nation proceeds toward 2017.
Considering existing realities and available facts, we cannot overemphasize the pressing need to promote human dignity through public policy and culture. It is time for Liberia to shift from compromising human dignity to protecting it. Too often, we give impunity free space to stifle human dignity. Too often, we bury justice to protect culprits of human rights violations. Too often we forget to promote equal rights and privileges.
The respect for human rights and dignity in Liberia is fundamental to sustaining peace and genuine national development. We cannot hope for a better Liberia when our women and girls are abused each day by atrocious elements. We have no grounds to brag about human dignity in Liberia when improved conditions are not created for our brothers and sisters with visual impairment to access quality education in institutions of higher learning.
I thought we took an oath to uphold the values of human dignity, parity and justice. Sadly, after 168 years of sovereignty and nationhood, we are still witnessing the mass murder of these inherent ideals. Many are now asking ‘when will our nation triumph over rape, harassment, intimidation, torture, labor abuse, social exclusion, trafficking, exploitation, and poverty?’ These degrading and inhumane treatments have become entrenched in our society as a result of weak laws, corrupt systems and unrefined cultural practices.
Liberia can only rise above these existing challenges and budding risks if its citizens are willing to promote equality, human dignity, diversity and justice. If only these tenets and ethical standards were put in action yesterday, our nation and its people would not have gone through fifteen (15) years of bloodletting and brutality. Today, we are mourning the deaths of over 250,000 Liberians as a result of our failure to adopt the culture of human dignity.
Whenever state actors give less attention to protecting human rights, it breeds a volatile society. The fragile peace Liberians currently enjoy is only possible beyond the drawdown of UNMIL next year if inclusive and realistic modalities are employed to bridge the gap between the haves and the have-nots. The wave of abuses in Liberia since 2003 especially against vulnerable people is too disturbing. If it is not sexual exploitation, it is trafficking. If it is not trafficking, it is forced marriage. If it is not forced marriage, it is labor abuse.
It is a time for us to sincerely stand up against these visible cruelties if Liberia must regain its status among the comity of nations. If rape is humiliating, then it means female genital mutilation (FGM) is also humiliating. If sex for grades is dehumanizing, then it means sex for money is also dehumanizing. We cannot continue to live in a country of equal citizenship, but unequal opportunities. It is only in the midst of equal opportunities that human dignity will emerge victorious in Liberia.
The social, economic and political plan of our country must reflect human dignity at all times. We must never make mistake to derive a roadmap without including those basic principles of dignity. The message of equal rights and respect for all human beings is essential to maintaining national stability and mutually. Peace starts and ends with human dignity.
The denial of one’s rights and privileges is the beginning of conflict and disintegration. Everyone deserves a happy life full of respect and honor. It is wrong to humiliate, dehumanize and degrade people simply because of their status, creed, culture, sex, age, physical abilities and political affiliation. The best solution to our problem in Liberia is to treat everyone with respect and dignity. We cannot talk about human freedom without talking about human dignity. Today, our Constitution and other international protocols guarantee human dignity at all levels.
The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights also guarantees human dignity. The Charter of the United Nations, which came into force on October 24, 1945, is in total support of human dignity, equality and justice. The first pillar of the Millennium Development Goals, which highlights the need to eradicate poverty and hunger globally, is in adherence to the doctrine of human dignity.
The respect for cultural diversity is very paramount to any democratic society. Considering the variation in traditional beliefs, it is crucial to promote human dignity through culture. There can be no harmony if respect for one’s culture is overlooked and suppressed. However, every culture must take into keen consideration human dignity and fundamental human rights.
Today, in Liberia, certain cultural practices are in total violation of human dignity and basic human rights. We agree that there are some good cultural practices, but there are also some bad ones. We must work along with local and traditional leaders to alleviate bad cultural practices such as female genital mutilation, forced labor, forced marriage, etc.
Having outlined few practices contrary to human dignity that remain ingrained in our society today, we would like to henceforth recommend the following:
1. That a National Stakeholder and Dialogue Conference be held on Human Dignity, Equality, and Equity.
2. That a Taskforce or Committee be established in each electoral district or county to exclusively promote Human Dignity.
3. That tougher legislations or laws be enacted to ensure total adherence to the principles of human dignity.
4. That Human Dignity and Human Rights be taught in secondary and tertiary institutions around the country.
About The Author: Martin K. N. Kollie is a Liberian youth activist, student leader, an emerging economist, and a young writer. He is currently a student at the University of Liberia reading Economics.